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Mutual Benefits: Developing Relational Service Approaches Within Centrelink

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The machinery of income support can have considerable influence in people's lives, creating opportunities for social work but also tensions: access to vulnerable people, but not always on their terms. This paper argues that the challenge to social work is about more than holding on to professional discretion. It considers how social workers can influence service delivery approaches to work more relationally, pursuing a more equal involvement of clients, and recognising the complex interactive context of social and community life. The authors trace the development of such an approach within the Australian Government human services delivery agency Centrelink in Logan, Queensland, and briefly consider a parallel innovation in Newcastle, New South Wales. The authors suggest that grounding a large institutional social service agency in the realities of client and community experiences has mutual benefits, creating a more humanising, cooperative space, and displacing inefficient and sometimes tragic cycles of misunderstanding, confrontation, and disconnection.
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Keywords: Early Intervention; Human Services; Relational Social Work; Social Inclusion; Strengths-based Approaches

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Human Services and Social Work,Griffith University, Logan CampusQueensland, Australia 2: School of Human Services and Social Work,Griffith University, Gold Coast CampusQueensland, Australia 3: Social Work Services,Centrelink, Logan,Queensland, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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